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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thoughts on the Dobranski Resignation

AveWatch has a short post on the Dobranski resignation. What is my reaction? Finally.

The "official announcement" distributed by Ave Maria School of Law is particularly interesting. It is one of most glowing Tom-and-Bernie-cheerleading programs I've ever read. Here are some excerpts:

Ave Maria School of Law Founding Dean and President Steps Down
Bernard Dobranski Resigns as Dean and President, but to Continue Active Role in
Law Schools Strategic Planning and Development


NAPLES, Fla. – (August 21, 2009) – Eleven years ago, Bernard Dobranski received a once-in-a-lifetime phone call. Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza and former owner of the Detroit Tigers, was contemplating starting a new law school in Michigan, and he wanted Dobranski to be the dean and president. Since accepting that position a decade ago, Dobranski has led the school through an incredible evolution. From a conceptual plan to a fully accredited law school, Dobranski has been at the forefront of Ave Maria School of Law's (AMSL) growth and development.

Today, AMSL Chairman of the Board, Thomas S. Monaghan, announced that Dobranski, who has been on medical leave for more than a year, has stepped down as the dean and president of the Law School.

"Both personally, and as chairman of the board, I am greatly appreciative for all Bernie has done for Ave Maria School of Law," Monaghan said. "His leadership, vision, perseverance and steadfast dedication to Catholic legal education have been unparalleled. It is with much esteem that the board of governors accepts his resignation."
I wonder: whenever the statement says "board of governors" should we just substitute the word "Monaghan"? Was there actually a Board of Governors meeting?
Reflecting on his time as dean and president, Dobranski noted the fundamental characteristics of the Law School, and how important they have been to him.

"For nearly 40 years I have committed my professional life to legal education," Dobranski said. ?And, throughout the last 10-plus years, Ave Maria School of Law has not only been my job, but it has been my passion. Educating a new generation of lawyers, and providing them an atmosphere to learn the finest professional skills, balanced with a deep commitment to faith and morality, has been a driving force in my life.

"After much prayer and reflection, I have decided to resign my positions as dean and president. My dedication and loyalty to Ave Maria School of Law are unwavering, but I feel that due to some current personal health matters and the need to continue ongoing physical therapy, it would be best if my service to the Law School took on a new form.

"My family, colleagues, friends and each student who has come through Ave Maria have been part of my support system, without which I could not have accomplished all that I have."
Hhhmm, is he including Safranek and company in this group?
Though no longer holding the titles of dean and president, Dobranski will remain active and engaged at AMSL. The Law School's Board of Governors has named him Dean Emeritus and appointed him to a seat on the Board. Dobranski will also continue as a full member of the faculty, and will be actively involved in the school's strategic planning and development efforts. One of his initial projects will be to explore the establishment of a special center that will reflect the unique mission of the Law School.
This is the most interesting part of the whole statement. What is "Dean Emeritus"? Dobranski has a seat on the Board of Governors? Is that a permanent seat or one subject to term limits? If Dobranski is a member of the faculty, will he teach? Or will he just be counted as a faculty member for the sake of padding the number of faculty members who won't vote "no confidence" in Monaghan? Will Dobranski continue to receive his $300K+ salary from his personal employment contract with Monaghan in contrast to the rest of the faculty who have employment contracts with the law school? And what is this special center? Perhaps some think tank based in Washington DC from which Dobranski can rub elbows with political bigwigs?
Since that initial phone call in 1998, Dobranski knew that AMSL was going to be something very unique in the field of legal education. Before a single student application was even taken, he was hard at work developing the direction and mission for the school. Monaghan had assured him that AMSL would be distinct in its mission, providing both a first-rate legal education and rooted firmly in the rich moral tradition of the Church.

"Bernie was the ideal person to start and lead the Law School," Monaghan said. "Before the announcement about AMSL was made, he had already committed to help lead an institution that would be academically rigorous, would compete with the best law schools in the country and would be infused with Catholic tradition and teachings."
Dobranski was the one who "started" and who "developed the direction and mission" of the law school? Nothing to see here, folks, just a little rewriting history, please move along!
Under Dobranski's leadership, the Law School has achieved many milestones.

In September 2000, AMSL opened its doors for the first time and began its inaugural academic year. With Dobranski's direction, the Law School immediately began taking incredible strides in growth and accreditation. Full accreditation by the American Bar Association (ABA) is the most critical designation a law school can receive. Not only did AMSL receive full accreditation in 2005, but it did so in the shortest time frame possible. This truly was a remarkable accomplishment for a new law school.
.... Until St. Thomas Law did it in just as fast a time AND debuted in the Third Tier. I get the feeling that AMSL is going to ride the "shortest time possible for ABA accreditation" credential for as long as it can. At what time does that credential become stale?
Dobranski's leadership and direction were invaluable to AMSL and allowed others to learn from his example. In April 2008, Dobranski took a medical leave of absence and Associate Dean and Professor Eugene R. Milhizer was appointed as the acting dean. Milhizer remembers that he felt better able to undertake his new responsibilities having watched Dobranski for so many years.

"Bernie's leadership qualities are founded on his faith and vast experience," Milhizer said. "Watching Bernie interact with students, faculty, staff, board members and members of the community has provided me with a great example of how to lead confidently, while still taking the time to listen to every person I encounter."
Heh, heh. "Bernie's leadership qualities." Heh, heh. I hope Milhizer hasn't learned the Dobranski method of ignoring faculty, students, and alumni.
At its meeting where the Law School's Board of Governors accepted Dobranski's resignation, it set into motion a formal search process for a new dean and president. In the interim, Milhizer was appointed acting president, in addition to his current duties as acting dean, which he has held since April 2008.
Any speculation on who would take the position of Ave Maria Law dean? What are the odds that Milhizer will be named dean and president 12 months from now after the "formal search process"?

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